6 Tips for Better App Designs

I often work on mobile apps with designers that have a web design background. I see the same set of mistakes being made as they transition from being web designers to mobile apps designer.

Here are a few tips from a developer’s point of view that I believe would make you create better designs and would help the developers you’re working with create better apps.

1. Don’t make teeny tiny touch targets.

People don’t use a mouse on their phones, they use their fat squishy fingers, so adjust your touch targets accordingly. Don’t expect people to be able to tap a 20×20 pixel button that is surrounded by a bunch other tappable elements.

2. Understand the proper usage of UI elements.

Both iOS and Android have thorough UI guidelines that talk about the proper usage of each UI element. Don’t consider yourself a mobile designer if you haven’t read those. Also, it’s always useful to look at how existing apps solve problems you’re trying to solve. Pttrns is a great resource for doing that.

3. Don’t design for a platform you haven’t used.

Don’t design apps for iOS or Android if you don’t use them. Reading the interface guidelines and looking at other apps will help a lot but it’s not enough. You won’t get a grasp of what a good app on a certain platform should be like unless you’ve used that platform for some time.

4. Understand the different screen sizes and the impact it has on your designs.

Don’t be one of those designers that just want to know what size they need to export the images assets to. You need to understand how different screen sizes are treated on each platform and how that would impact your design.

5. Designs are not static.

Many designer make the mistake of thinking of their designs in a static way. Those usually end up with pretty designs that aren’t very usable. Think of the animations and interactions of the app. Think of the different states of each view and how views are going to look like when they are empty or full of data.

6. Learn to code.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds, and no one is expecting you to be able to build complete apps on your own, but dipping your toes into coding will give a better perspective on what’s possible and what’s not and will greatly help you build better apps.

Apps to change your contacts numbers to the new format (regularly updated)

Starting 6th of October all mobile phone numbers will be changed to the new format (11 digits instead of 10). For more details check http://www.ntra.gov.eg/presentations/NumbringPlan14112010_Ar.pdf

Suddenly everyone is developing apps to convert numbers on your contacts list to this new format. I will be keeping track of all apps across all platforms and regularly updating this post.

iPhone:

  1. Arkami by BadrIT ($0.99): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/arkami/id415675418?mt=8&ls=1
  2. Engezly by Vodafone (free): http://itunes.apple.com/eg/app/engezly/id437564823?mt=8
  3. Contacts Fixer by Great Tides ($1.99): http://itunes.apple.com/eg/app/id467937687?mt=8
  4. Felsaree3 by Mobinil (free): http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/felsaree3/id466896405?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

Android:

  1. Tazbeet (free): https://market.android.com/details?id=net.tazbeet.mobile.pbu
  2. Egypt Contact Updater by AspxWizard (free): https://market.android.com/details?id=com.egypt.updatephonebook
  3. Egypt Phonebook Updater by Dynamix (free): https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dynamix.egyptupdater
  4. Engezly by Vodafone (free): https://market.android.com/details?id=com.emeint.android.myservices&pli=1
  5. Zabat Nemarak by Blue Flare (free): http://blueflare.net/zabatnemarak/apps/Zabat_Nemarak.apk
  6. Felsaree3 by Mobinil (free): https://market.android.com/details?id=com.emeint.android.myservices.mobinil
  7. Ozbotha by AWStreams (free): https://market.android.com/details?id=com.ozbotha
BlackBerry:
  1. NTRA is Shortsighted by @kariemali (free): http://code.google.com/p/ntra-is-shortsighted/
  2. Zabat Nemarak by Blue Flare (free): Coming soon.
  3. Felsaree3 by Mobinil (free): To download send an empty SMS to 1717.
  4. Ozbotha by AWStreams (free): http://blackberry.ozbotha.com/
Nokia:
  1. AddPlus by GlobeSoft (42.99 EGP, WTH?!!): http://store.ovi.com/content/43950
  2. Zabat Nemarak by Blue Flare (free): Coming soon.
  3. Felsaree3 by Mobinil (free): http://www.4shared-china.com/file/uBzCPlcU/mobinil_felsaree3_14_01.html
  4. Ozbotha by AWStreams (free): http://www.midp.ozbotha.com

Top Android apps

AdFree: There are many high quality, free but ad-supported apps on Android. Having these ads on the screen usually isn’t a big problem unless you are playing a game like Angry Birds, where it becomes really intruding. AdFree blocks every ad server you could come through, and it regularly gets its database of ad server updated to add new ones. Result is no more silly ads preventing you from shooting that pig!

ColorNote: Although I haven’t found out yet the perfect notes application for my needs on Android, ColorNote comes very close to what I’m looking for. It lets you create notes in the form of plain text or checklists, you could also change the color of the note to identify its category, in addition to a list of other handy features. The only thing it lacks is cloud syncing, but at least it automatically backups your data locally.

Firefox: While there are many decent browsers for Android, Firefox does something very special. It fully renders Arabic fonts on non Arabic-enabled phones. Enough said.

gReaderPro: After trying several RSS feeds readers that sync with Google Reader I found this to be the best. Great for those who love to read their feeds on the go. Even better than Google’s own Reader app.

i-nigma: 1D/2D barcode reader. What makes it so special? Astonishing resposne times. Identifies the barcode while you haven’t even adjusted the camera to capture it!

Llama: Trigger certain actions based on you location, like turn off ringer when I arrive at work or turn on WiFi and turn off 3G when I arrive at home. Very handy once you teach it the locations you visit regularly.

Lookout: Comes in free and paid versions. Free version lets you find your missing device by showing its location on Google Maps from their web interface. It also gives you the option to turn on a loud alarm on the phone, so you could identify its place. Lookout will also let you backup your phone data to the cloud (contacts only in case of free version) and will scan each and every app installed on your phone to prevent any malicious code running on your device.

MarketEnabler: Rooted phones only. Many apps in the Android Market are locked to certain carriers or countries. Market Enabler will let you fake your carrier so you could access all the apps that were hidden from you.

SetCPU: Rooted phones only. Simply put, let’s you overclock/underclock your CPU simply by setting the desired CPU speed using a sliding bar. Be cautious when overclocking as the CPU chip could overheat and get fried!

Shush!: Every time you put your phone into silent mode Shush! will pop up asking you when do you want to put it back to ringing mode. Very handy if you always set your phone to silent at work and then forget to set it back to normal mode.

TuneIn Radio: Let’s you listen to an enormous number of radio stations from all over the world. You could find your desired station by name, country, genre or language.

If you know an app that you think should make it to this list please post it in the comments section.